April 13, 2005

Evans, Pelosi introduce proposed new GI Bill

Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, on Tuesday joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to unveil a proposed new GI Bill that would boost spending for veterans in a number of areas.

Their GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century, scheduled to be introduced in the coming days, would include initiatives sought by veterans' groups.

Those include increased spending on health care, lower health-care fees, increased disability pay, greater survivor benefits and more education cash.

Rep. Pelosi said the bill would "guarantee access to education, health care and the opportunity for good jobs."

It includes an initiative by Rep. Evans, the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to extend mental-health services to veterans.

The overall bill's spending levels were not detailed during a press conference attended by Democratic House lawmakers, veterans groups, and former Democratic presidential candidate, retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

However, it would increase spending on veterans’ health-care by $3.2 billion more than what was proposed by President George W. Bush in his fiscal 2006 budget.

He [Evans] characterized the House Veterans Affairs Committee as "in disarray" since the departure of former Chairman Chris Smith, R-N.J., who was removed from the post in January for fighting Republican leaders over veterans spending. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., was named the new chairman.

Democrats have railed at Republican moves to rein in the growth of veterans spending programs, particularly veterans' health care. The fiscal 2006 budget passed by the House on a mostly party-line vote last month calls for a $155 million increase in fees or an equal benefits cut, and $798 million in new fees or cuts over five years.

The budget also pegs veterans medical spending at $127 million below the amount estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to maintain current levels of service, and $16 billion over five years.

Democratic amendments that would have added $2.4 billion and $2.9 billion to veterans programs were defeated during debate over the budget.

Overall, the Bush administration proposed an increase of 1 percent in Veterans Administration spending, to $68.2 billion, but also proposed higher fees and doubling prescription drug co-payments. The actual amount for veterans’ health care would rise by less than half of 1 percent.

Evans continues to be on the vanguard of fighting the tough battle to maintain and improve veterans services against a massive Republican efforts to slash budgets and shift more and more of the burden for healthcare onto the veterans themselves.

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At 4/13/2005 8:49 PM, Blogger Rawk Eyelund said...

It's amazing that the pair of chicken hawks running things are cutting health care to veterans just as us Viet Nam veterans are starting to need it.


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